Friendships at home take years to form. We have to dedicate time between commitments to share an experience with a new person. We slowly share more and more personal information as the comfort level with this new friend increases. Then, over time, these friends become mainstays in our lives and people who support us in difficult and exciting moments.
Travel friendships form quickly. We spend 8-10 hours together over consecutive days continuously engaged in new experiences with the world. Because travel friends are often people we will not see again, there are fewer hesitations to volunteer personal information that would often be reserved for the inner circle of friends at home. As quickly as the travel bond forms, it transitions to a social media relationship when we move on to new cities or countries.
In Sao Paulo, I made friends with a fabulous crew of people. All solo travelers, we quickly realized our similar experiences meant we could have a lot of fun together. Darren from Australia, Liam from New Zealand, Laura from Brussels/Ireland and I re-connected in Rio.
I could not have asked for a better week. Having people I trusted and enjoyed to meet-up with for all kinds of activities enriched my experience. While I enjoy visiting places on my own, being with friends for laughter, conversation, drinks, workouts, and meals was fantastic.
In addition to re-connecting with these new friends, a family friend from Minnesota lives part of the year in Rio. Greg, my local tour guide, offered recommendations on where to eat and sights to see that never missed their mark.
I think a lot about returning home and spending time with friends I have known for years and who I miss. Having new friends in my life for this week in Rio was a reminder of how much more fun is had when the moments are shared with others.
I traveled from Paraty to Rio de Janeiro and arrived at my hostel around dusk. These photos were my first views of the beach in Leblon, the mountains Dois Irmaos, two brothers in Portuguese, and the lights of the comunidade (favela) of Vidigal. I visited Rio once before, 3 years ago for about 1 week to celebrate Carnival.
I started my visit in Rio with an amazing hike with Darren. We walked from my hostel in Leblon to Vidigal, about 1 mile away. Then, we walked up the main rode in the hillside comunidade to the entrance of the Dois Irmaos hiking trail. From the trail head, it was a 45 minute, relatively intense trek to reach the top of this 533 meter mountain. There are no better views of Rio and we were fortunate to trek on a day where there were only a few other people on the trail.
From the top of Dois Irmaos it is possible to see the Leblon and Ipanema beaches and neighborhoods. Around the point is the Copacabana beach. The body of water in the left of the photos is Lagoa, meaning lake, another Rio neighborhood. As we walked uphill we were able to see Vidigal too.
We hiked on an unpaved trail through lush jungle and forest. We spotted monkeys on our walk down and Darren captured some great photos.
Laura, our Irish friend living in Brussels and working for a 6 weeks in Rio, suggested we go to a futebol match. Liam, Darren and I immediately said yes! For a an enjoyable history lesson about futebol in Brazil, the Maracaña stadium, and the famous yellow and green jersey of this nation, listen to the most recent 99% Invisible podcast titled New Jersey.
The match was played in the famous Maracaña Stadium. The match was one in the Rio Classico series, one of the few times in the season when the 4 clubs in Rio play against each other. The rivalry is intense. At this game, Fluminense played Flamengo. We sat with the Fluminense fans, the eventual losers of the match.
When it is a sunny weekend in Rio, the whole city travels to the beach. The beach is a second living room for many people. Groups gather and eat meals, play sports, read, exercise and relax. Because of the colors of the beach gear and the wall-to-wall people these beaches are my favorite.
At the end of my sunny beach day, I walked a few kilometers from Leblon to the end of the Ipanema beach where there is a rocky outcropping. On the rocks people gathered to watch the sun set. I watched the sun set as I walked along the boardwalk to return to Leblon.
Monday night there is a weekly outdoor samba party called Pedro de Sol in the Lapa neighborhood, an area known for its nightlife. I went to this street party with Laura, Liam, Leah and other friends to people watch and enjoy the music. Food and drink vendors lined the streets. For a work night, it was amazing to see such a large and energized crowd. Liam, Leah, and I finished the night at a dance club.
In many places around Rio there are painted squares on the sidewalk that say, “Stand here. Appreciate the view for a minute and smile.” I loved these reminders to enjoy the moments. From this square, a person has a perfect view of palm trees and the ocean. I stopped here many times.
Another beach sunset, my favorite time of day.
The Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden is a 140 acre park in the city center. Darren, Liam and I walked here from our hostels near the beach. This park was founded in 1808 by a Portuguese King and opened to the public in 1822. There are more than 6,000 species of tropical and sub tropical plants at the Jardin Botanico. The proximity of huge natural reserves like this botanical garden to a large, thriving city is one reason I think Rio is an especially wonderful city.
The bottom photo is a cashew tree we saw at the Botanical Garden. Prior to arriving in Brazil, I did not know the cashew nut grew with a fruit. Liam, Laura, Darren and I are fans of the cashew caipirinha. 134 palm trees lead from the park entrance down a road called Avenue of Royal Palms. The Christ the Redeemer Statue is visible from most areas of the garden.
After the morning at the botanical gardens, Liam, Darren and I spent the afternoon drinking caipirinhas on the beach. There are sections of the beach for every social group – we laid out in the gay area.
Darren considered buying a beach wrap from a local saleswomen.
Parque Lage is a former single family residence turned public garden and art school. The home and property are located in the same neighborhood as the Botanical Garden and within walking distance from where I stayed in Leblon near the beach. The rapper Snopp Dogg filmed a music video here. At Parque Lage I saw many people posing for photography shoots, including a pregnant woman dressed in a mermaid-like outfit.
In the gardens of Parque Lage.
Walking from Parque Lage back to Leblon, I walked around Lagoa. The visit was timed to see the sun set from the lake. On the walk I was happy to find another painted square reminding passersby to, “Stand here. Appreciate life for one minute and smile.” I stayed for more than a minute observing the sunset in this visually stunning city.
I include a workout routine in my daily activities. I exercised at these benches and fitness stations in Rio. As befits a beach community, the residents are focused on health and appearance. Around the beaches and boardwalks there are always people working out, playing beach volleyball or futeboll, and personal trainers.
The barraca is a hallmark of any beach visit in Rio. Barracas are stands renting beach chairs and umbrellas. Some barracas sell food, alcoholic drinks or offer free wifi. Many people do not bring cell phones to the beach so the numbered barracas are one tool beach-goers use to find friends and family on a packed beach.
I went to the Urca neighborhood, an area closer to the city center, to watch the sun set from another vantage point. Here too I spotted a reminder to live in the moment and appreciate the sights.
Views of the beach boardwalk in the Cidade Maravilhosa, or the Marvelous City as Rio is nicknamed. The sidewalks in Rio are made-up of small pieces of stone and pressed into geometric patterns.